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Cheese Dishes

Cheese plays a vital role in the Italian diet -- always has, since before the Romans, because cheese making was the only way to preserve highly nutritious milk before refrigeration. Because of this, Italy has a tremendous number of tasty cheeses and cheesy dishes.

Making a Cheese Basket
A cheese basket is a bowl or dish made out of cheese that you can fill with pasta (with a not-too-liquid sauce), risotto, gnocchi, or even stew. They're easy to make, and make for a beautiful presentation; they're nice for a change of pace, and perfectly suited to a romantic occasion.

Fried Mozzarella
Fried Mozzarella, a South Italian classic, is much lighter might expect, and can also be rather sensual. In short, a perfect summer second course or entree.

Rich Potato Salad -- Insalata Ricca di Patate
Rich Potato Salad, or Insalata Ricca di Patate: Potato salad comes in many guises, and though it is often creamy there are other options as well. This recipe features Provolone cheese.

Sicilian Cheese Pie -- Scacciata
Sicilian Cheese Pie, or Scacciata: This is a Sicilian specialty that Fernanda Gosetti presents in discussing Caciocavallo in her Grande Libro dei Formaggi; since Caciocavallo and Provolone are quite similar either cheese will work in preparing the recipe.

Provolone Balls -- Polpettine di Provolone
Provolone Balls, or Polpettine di Provolone: Meatballs are a standby of Italian cuisine. These cheese balls are a little more unusual, but will work nicely with a tossed salad in a light luncheon, and will also be a good antipasto or party food. The recipe will also work well with caciocavallo cheese.

Pecorino Toscano Skewers -- Spiedini Di Pecorino Toscano
Pecorino Toscano Skewers, or Spiedini Di Pecorino Toscano: Classic cocktail food, and the sort of thing that you can assemble as you see fit.

Frico with Potatoes, or Frico con le Patate
Frico with Potatoes, or Frico con le Patate: Frico is a cheese fritter made by heating grated Montasio cheese in a skillet until it crisps with other ingredients, in this case potatoes. I had it in a little place up a hill on the way from Cividale to Udine; they had Refosco (a red wine) by the jug, and the combination worked quite well, with some polenta on the side.

Frico with Onions -- Frico con le Cipolle
Frico with Onions, or Frico con le Cipolle: Frico is a specialty of Friuli Venezia Giulia, grated Montasio cheese (similar to Parmigiano but sharper and more crumbly) heated with other ingredients (often potatoes) until it melts together and becomes crusty. In this case, Montasio works wonders with onions.

Fonduta -- Cheese Fondue
Fonduta, or Cheese Fondue: Though the dish is commonly associated with the Val d'Aosta, it's not, according to Ricette di Osterie e Ristoranti della Valle D'Aosta, a traditional Valdostan dish. Rather, it was imported from nearby Piemonte and rapidly became one of the test dishes with which mothers-in-law evaluated their prospective daughters-in-laws' culinary ability: though the preparation is for the most part easy, one has to know exactly when to remove the pot from the fire.

Fondue with Truffles -- Fonduta con Tartufi
Fondue with Truffles, or Fonduta con Tartufi: Many people associate fondue with the French, perhaps because the word sounds French. However, it's common in Piemonte and Val d'Aosta too. And in this case it's enriched with truffles.

Savory Cheese Torte -- Torta di Formaggio
Savory Cheese Torte, or Torta di Formaggio: This Piemontese antipasto can be extraordinary, though you have to remember to eat just a little lest you find yourself feeling full before the meal even begins.

Gorgonzola, Pear & Walnut Quiche Recipe - Quiche Al Gorgonzola Con Le Pere
Gorgonzola cheese and pears go together remarkably well in this quiche, which will be perfect as an antipasto, or at a brunch, or at a party.

Tagliatelle Soufflé -- Soufflé di Tagliatelle
Soufflé di Tagliatelle, or Tagliatelle Soufflé: Cheesy, and quite tasty. You can prepare the pasta from scratch, which you can do if you have the time, though it will be just as good if you use fresh or dried store-bought tagliatelle.

Making Ricotta
It's easy to do at home, and very good too.

Rice Sformato: Sformato di Riso
A classic; if made in a ring mold it's the perfect vehicle for presenting a stew (which goes into the well).

Flans: Sformati
They're similar to soufflés, though not quite as airy, and are amazingly versatile, ranging from hearty comfort food to light vegetarian delights to tasty desserts.

Fried Mozzarella with Primavera Sauce
Fried cheese is wonderuflly refreshing in the summer months. Here it works beautifully with a primavera sauce.

Savory Farro Pie: Torta Salata di Farro
A savory cheesecake made with ricotta and farro.

Sformato Emilian Style: Sformato All'Emiliana
An extraordinarily rich, potatoey, cheesy wonder that's perfect for the keeping the cold at bay.

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